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Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Lynn S. Whiting dies at 77

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Lynn S. Whiting, who trained Lil E. Tee to an upset victory in the 1992 Kentucky Derby, died Wednesday. He was 77.

He died at his home in Louisville, Kentucky, after a struggle with cancer and a stroke he had during the winter in Arkansas, according to Oaklawn Park spokeswoman Jennifer Hoyt.

Churchill Downs said Whiting had visited the track on Monday for the first time since his stroke. He had one win in 10 starts this year.

Whiting had career earnings of $23,960,058 and 1,279 victories from 6,113 starters, according to Equibase.

His biggest win was the Derby with 17-1 long shot Lil E. Tee. The colt won by a length and paid $35.60.

“That’s the culmination of everybody’s dream that ever trained a racehorse,” Whiting said in an interview with Horse Racing Radio Network in January. “It’s a little bit like catching lighting in a bottle.”

Whiting saddled 300 winners at the Louisville track.

He spent the winter months at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where he won the Rebel Stakes with Clever Allemont in 1985 and Phantom on Tour in 1997.

Among his other major victories were the 1992 Arkansas Derby with Lil E. Tee, the 1987 Louisiana Derby with J.T.’s Pet, the 1984 Ohio Derby and Arlington Classic with At the Threshold (who sired Lil E. Tee), the 1984 Haskell Invitational with Big Pistol, the 1995 Pennsylvania Derby with Pineing Patty and the 2013 Oaklawn Handicap with Cyber Secret.

Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day won his only Derby nearly 25 years ago aboard Lil E. Tee.

“I had the utmost confidence in trainer Lynn Whiting, my dear friend and astute horseman that he is,” Day said last week. “I know that if anybody could bring him up to the Derby in fine form, it would be him. When we walked in the starting gate for the Derby, I had a really good theory. I felt that we were going to get a great effort out of him, which we did. When I put him to task, he was up to the challenge and got the roses for us. It was a highlight of my racing career.”

Lil E. Tee went on to finish fifth in the Preakness and didn’t run in the Belmont Stakes. The colt had career earnings of $1,425,026.

Whiting saddled two other Derby horses: Phantom on Tour finished sixth in 1997 and At the Threshold was third in 1984.

He became a trainer in 1968 and saddled his first winner the following year at Lincoln Downs in Rhode Island.

Born June 28, 1939, in Great Falls, Montana, Whiting learned the horse business from his father, Lyle, who was a jockey and a trainer. Whiting’s grandfather was a trainer, too.

“My first experience at the track I went in a baby buggy with my mother and grandmother,” he said in the radio interview. “I was just a racetrack kid. There was never any doubt where I was headed.”

He is survived by his wife, Nell; daughters Carrie and Lori; and three grandchildren.

Polarisation wins again in re-run Sydney Cup

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SYDNEY — Visiting English trainer Charlie Appleby and his five-year-old gelding Polarisation claimed poetic justice on Saturday with victory in the Sydney Cup at Randwick racecourse, two weeks after “winning” the abandoned first running of one of Australia’s biggest races.

The 3,200-meter (2-mile) Group 1 feature, worth 2 million Australian dollars ($1.5 million), was controversially called off midway on April 8 amid safety concerns, as an injured horse lay stricken on the track. With former European stallion Almoonqith immobilized just after the winning post, officials decided to abandon the race, with mounted officials attempting to relay the decision to jockeys around the 1,000-meter mark.

However, only half the jockeys heard the message and pulled their horses up. Another six carried on, with Polarisation finishing first and his jockey Corey Brown celebrating.

Brown later led criticism of the decision to abandon the race, saying the field could easily have dodged the fallen Almoonqith – which was later euthanized – and his attendants after passing the post.

But given another chance, Polarisation proved it was no fluke, winning by a neck under Brown again. Sydney galloper Who Shotthebarman, who dislodged his jockey Blake Shinn after interference from Almoonqith in the race two weeks ago, finished second under Shinn again.

Polarisation, raced by the Godolphin thoroughbred empire of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, earned 1.17 million Australian dollars ($880,000) for the win.

Javier Castellano still eyeing elusive Kentucky Derby

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. — Javier Castellano is arguably the best jockey in racing right now.

Except, that is, at the Kentucky Derby.

It is a baffling fact: The top rider in the game – he’s won the Eclipse Award as the sport’s best in each of the last four years – has the worst record of any jockey ever to ride in the Kentucky Derby. And even with all his accomplishments, when the Run for the Roses draws near the most glaring omission from his resume starts gnawing at him.

This is the one he wants, more than anything else.

“To win this race, it would mean a lot,” Castellano said. He paused for a moment, looked up and quietly continued his thought: “A lot,” he said again.

Castellano has ridden in the Kentucky Derby 10 times. He’s 0 for 10 in those starts. Not just 0 for 10, mind you, but he’s never finished second, never even finished third. Only Rafael Bejarano has such a record with at least 10 Derby appearances, and every jockey with 11 or more Derby mounts has crossed the line first, second or third at least once.

So history says 2017 has to be Castellano’s time. He’ll be aboard Gunnevera in this year’s Derby on May 6.

“He told me that he wanted to ride this horse,” said Gunnevera trainer Antonio Sano, who like Castellano is a native of Venezuela. “He called me and said that. That meant very much.”

Sano believes the breakthrough is coming.

“I think he’s the best,” Sano said.

The numbers certainly suggest that Sano might be right.

Besides the four straight Eclipse Awards – something only Jerry Bailey has done among jockeys – Castellano is a finalist this year for enshrinement in racing’s Hall of Fame, with the announcement of the new induction class coming on Monday. His mounts have collected over $275 million in earnings, a total only four other jockeys have reached. He’s won nearly 5,000 races, seven of them at the Breeders’ Cup.

It’s not like he can’t win the big one.

He just hasn’t won this big one – yet.

“This is my target,” Castellano said. “It would be more than a dream come true. It’s the one thing as a jockey that you want, to get to that level. This is the one.”

Castellano was aboard the favored Bellamy Road in 2005, but finished seventh. Of his other nine starters, only two have gone off at odds less than 10-1. The closest he came to the win was 2013, when Normandy Invasion had the lead in the stretch – on a soaking wet track – before finishing fourth.

It’s not just the Triple Crown races that haven’t brought Castellano great luck. Besides his Derby troubles, he’s 0 for 10 in the Belmont and 1 for 5 in the Preakness. Add them up and Castellano is 1 for 25 in those classics, with no wins in his last 21 starts.

None of that is holding him back, and trainers still clamor for his services. He’s No. 3 in earnings so far this year, despite paring his schedule down just a bit, and still hits the board – racing parlance for finishing in the top three – in more than half of his starts.

“I’ve had so much success with Javier, and we have great chemistry together,” reigning Eclipse Award trainer winner Chad Brown said. “He studies the races very well. And if he’s ridden a horse before, he learns a lot from it and applies it to the next race.”

That’s why Gunnevera might be a lively pick on Derby day.

Castellano has been aboard him four times, with two wins, a second-place finish and most recently a third-place showing in the Florida Derby when Gunnevera made a huge run from the back of the field. And every time, Castellano has come away a little more convinced that he’s going to Churchill Downs with a real shot.

“Absolutely, this is what I’ve been looking for,” Castellano said. “Maybe things will go well. Maybe this is the year.”